La Clinica Del Pueblo and DC’s Latinx Community

Last week, we welcomed Dilcia Molina, a staff member and activist from La Clinica Del Pueblo (LCDP), to Georgetown. LCDP is a community health center that serves DC’s Latinx community. Dilcia spoke to students about Entre Amigas, a program she runs that addresses Latina women’s roles and focuses on health, wellness, domestic violence, and immigration.

LCDP was founded as a volunteer-run clinic in the 1980’s to provide support to immigrants fleeing violence and natural disasters in Central America. It has increasingly served as a safe space for immigrant women survivors of gender-based violence. One of the reasons why LCDP has been able serve its community so well is because of its staff, most of whom are bilingual and/or first-generation immigrants. In discussions of access to health care, we often prioritize cultural competence, but LCDP takes that conversation to a new level, providing services that are tailored to the communities it serves.

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Lourdes Ashley Hunter: A Call to Action

The community of trans women of color was one of the communities I had known very little about. But, I was given the perfect opportunity to gain insight into the community by listening to the keynote speech of Outober. Lourdes Ashley Hunter is the director of the Trans Women of Color Collective here in DC and she will be a doctoral student at Georgetown in January. Lourdes is a successful disabled black trans woman, the co-founder and National Director of Trans Women of Color Collective (TWOCC). Unsurprisingly, she is also an incredibly impactful speaker.

 

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Exit, Pursued by a Bear: Bearing Witness to Violence

Spoilers!

*Ding!* Lights open to a play script projected to the back wall. *Ding!* More of the play script. Around the room we can see an open bag of cheetos, a half empty bottle of whiskey, and Kyle, waking up to duct-tape over his mouth and across his chest and legs, securing him to the recliner in the middle of the room. “Kyle is mad.”

Nomadic Theatre’s production, “Exit, Pursued by a Bear,” centers around our protagonist, Jimmy Carter-obsessed, animal-loving Nan, and her experience of domestic abuse in her marriage with Kyle. The play begins in the midst of Nan’s dramatic reclamation of control and power in her relationship. She, her best friend Simon, and her stripper-actress-best-friend, Sweetheart, stage a survivor story like no other: a play that concludes in Kyle being left to the bears.

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Deconstructing Shame

A Feminist Round Table with Professor Michelle Ohnona.

Last week, the Women’s Center hosted a Feminist Round Table (FRT) around the topic of internalized oppression. The FRT was entitled “Deconstructing Shame: How are we censoring the expression of our identities?” This FRT was inspired by an article on Bustle focused on internalized misogyny, and it was facilitated by Professor Michelle Ohnona. Professor Ohnona is a part of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program. In the past, she has taught Sexuality Studies, Feminist Theory, and Sexual Politics in the Arab World.

 

Before discussing internalized oppression, I want to speak to the title of this FRT. Upon reflecting on my own experiences of internalized oppression as a young Asian woman, shame and guilt were two feelings that are most salient, and yet most difficult to articulate. Tapping into my (limited, but growing) knowledge of Women’s and Gender Studies, these feelings were ominous reminders of the feelings of survivors that Lundy Bancroft writes about in “Why Does He Do That?

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Break The Stigma: Body Positivity

Body image is how you see yourself in the mirror. Body image is how you picture yourself in your mind.

That is how NEDA defines body image. There’s something we should all take from this definition. It’s dependent upon YOU, dependent upon YOUR perception of YOURSELF. So when someone says, “being beautiful is a decision that you make,” it’s true.

Yet somehow, that is not so easy.

Today, we’ve probably all heard adages of anti-body-shaming and eating disorder advocacy . We’ve seen participants on reality TV shows receiving praise for all the weight they’ve lost, finally being able to feel comfortable in their bodies. We’ve seen the pictures of women, bones visible through their taut skin, at the front page of magazines to show us the adverse effects of a dieting. We’ve seen the videos of plus-size models telling us to be confident and “love our bodies”.

In the United States, more than 10 million men are diagnosed with eating disorders. Of those 10 million, 46% identify as gay. Statistics have shown that women of a lower socioeconomic status exhibit more symptoms of disordered eating. Children as young as six years old have said they want to be thinner. I would quote statistics on eating disorders among communities of color, but the NEDA says that exact statistics on the prevalence of eating disorders among women of color are unavailable, not to mention male communities of color, LGBTQ communities of color.

We all have different expectations of body image and the ‘normal.’ But why would you want to be normal, when you can be so much more than that – you can be you. So find that one thing about yourself that makes you feel beautiful. Your curly hair? Your muscles? Your eyes? Anything at all.

Here are a few notable examples of companies and personalities that have embraced this method of body positivity:

http://www.bet.com/lifestyle/2016/08/10/aerie_s-new-body-positive-campaign-is-everything.html

http://selfesteem.dove.us/

https://www.buzzfeed.com/davidbertozzi/body-positive-men?utm_term=.olJx45NvX#.qbl1z6wQJ

Senior Reflections

“Birds born in a cage think flying is an illness.” —Alejandro Jodorowsky

My sophomore year my roommate and I went on a whitewater rafting trip with other Georgetown students. Along the way, at the strongest rapid, our raft capsized and we all went tumbling out. The current dragged me along and I felt myself losing control, my legs scraped along the bottom, my body made impact with rocks, the guide frantically paddled toward all of us, scrambling in the water, to pull us to safety and return us to our raft. In those moments there is a feeling of sheer panic, all of your comfort and tranquility has disappeared and is replaced by an urgency to get out of the current, get back to land, get back to safety. But what I’ve learned from the Women’s Center, and Georgetown in general, is that often there is much to be learned in the panic (metaphorically speaking). You see, this feeling is the same that emerged in me when my comfortable, safe and tranquil white feminist lens was taken down, when my cisgender- straight perspective was etched away, when my race was illuminated in a world that had previously told me I need not look for it. This core part of me felt itself crashing against rocks, being dragged under by a strong current, feeling the panic of not knowing the answers.

I came to the Women’s Center believing I was informed, better educated than most on the topics of female empowerment and ready to delve ahead around feminism and women’s rights. I had never imagined that I was the Titanic, knowing only the tip of the iceberg, ill equipped to handle all that lay below. I quickly learned that I was a white, straight, cisgender female who knew virtually nothing about intersectional feminism and allyship. I did not even know the word ‘intersectional feminism’ until I learned it here. When I began volunteering at the Women’s Center I was immersed into a new world- roundtable discussions on black feminism, men in feminism, transgender feminism, women’s representations in politics, comics, media, immigration, undocumented Hoyas, women in climate, class disparities, the list was endless. Leadership trainings that showed me I had a voice, one that I could use. My aunt’s words would resonate in my head in these spaces, “You know Mary it’s okay to have an opinion.” I did not believe her before, my opinions had brought anger, had brought discomfort, shame, my cheeks would turn red telling someone I disagreed. But here, here was a space where I could disagree, where I could put my opinion forward after feeling for years that I should remain relatively silent, and that confidence grew until I could put it forward outside of the space. Conversations with the Women’s Center director Laura Kovach constantly challenged me, put forward new ways of looking at words like ‘survivor,’ and helped me to deconstruct basic accepted tenets about women (and men) in society, she helped me make sense of it all. Every day a new piece of me was forming, a new knowledge emerging, a new confidence building. And I must admit it was not the Women’s Center alone that was doing this work; it was the close partnerships the Women’s Center had with the LGBTQ Center and its director Shiva- imparting me with insights five times her size, with the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access, with the students who flowed in and out of the centers, each with a different perspective, experience, history.

In those moments of shedding, of letting the current wash me, of letting the rocks cut me and scrape away the old skin, I was so uncomfortable. The process was, at times, painful. Painful when you realize that friendships with certain people can no longer be maintained as they cling to ignorance or bigotry despite your questioning, painful when you discover that your parents- those beacons of power throughout your childhood- perhaps do not have all the knowledge you once thought they possessed, that at times they can and do do wrong, uncomfortable when you realize that in certain situations where you have not been oppressed it is your place to listen and not speak, painful when your university does not always make the choices you believe it should. The pain resonates, and makes you melancholy. It is so much easier to return to your safe haven. But I knew it was wrong to stay there, to play the card of ignorance and therefore a believed innocence. There was something better waiting on the other side. Who knew that when I emerged from that river, having been thrashed about to and fro I would emerge stronger, more knowledgeable, more critical and questioning of the information put before me and most importantly, more inclusive of experiences different, but no less valid, than my own.

As Ta-nehisi Coates wrote in his book “Between the World and Me,” (a book that I must point out would never have even been on my radar were it not for the friendships formed at the Women’s Center), “It began to strike me that the point of my education was a kind of discomfort, was the process that would not award me my own especial Dream but would break all the dreams, all the comforting myths…” My myths were broken, my worldview shifted, but my resolve strengthened. I now march forward from the bank of that river unafraid to continue changing, unafraid of jumping into another, knowing that I can and I will rescue myself. My bruises will heal, new skin will form, and me? Well I’ll be better because of it.

“Is Feminism Inclusive?” Exploring trans identities within the Feminist Community

Although questioned in the 1970s and 1980s, transgender inclusion in Feminism and in “women-only” spaces came to the forefront in 1991 following the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, also known as Michfest. Nancy Jean Burkholder’s expulsion from Michfest, upon suspicion of being transgender, sparked protests such as Camp Trans, which takes place near Michfest, and pushes for trans inclusion within Queer and Feminist spaces. Despite the extensive backlash against this incident of exclusion, Michfest continued to maintain its official “womyn-born-womyn” policy up until it’s close in 2015 and the issue of trans-inclusion in feminist spaces continues to be debated almost 25 years later.

 

Last month, as part of Women’s History Month, the Women’s Center held a Feminist Roundtable, entitled “Is Feminism Inclusive?” It focused on trans identities and how Feminism can be more inclusive of varying gender identities. During the event, we discussed the reasons some may be hesitant to include trans people in Feminist spaces and whether or not these reasons are valid. We then discussed the commonalities between cisgender and transgender Feminist causes, recognized the importance of everyone’s unique experiences, and acknowledging that we are all fighting for similar visions of equality.

 

Some argue that trans women benefit from male privilege because they are socialized as boys, or that trans men are “traitors” attempting to gain this male privilege. Emi Koyama, in Transfeminist Manifesto, addresses this belief by arguing that we must recognize the possibility of male privilege while simultaneously understanding the disadvantages that can come with a trans identity. By taking such a simplistic approach to male privilege, we overlook the existence of cisgender privilege and the way in which being assigned male at birth may be more of a burden than a privilege to a trans woman. Koyama presents the faults of this understanding by using the example of two gay cis men: if being assigned male at birth is intrinsically linked to male privilege, then this couple is more privileged than any cis heterosexual couple, as both partners benefit from male privilege.  Although two gay cis men may make a larger combined income because of the pay gap (more on that here), they may also be subjected to discrimination and homophobia, demonstrating how nuanced oppression and discrimination can be because of the intersections of identity.

 

After countering these ideas regarding trans people and privilege, we focused on the commonalities between transgender issues and Feminist issues. These commonalities include emphasis on bodily autonomy as well as opposition to patriarchal systems, gender-based violence, the strict gender binary, and societal beauty standards. As Koyama explains, a main focus of U.S. transgender politics is advocating against rigid gender roles. Trans people are often forced, through harassment and discrimination, into the gender dichotomy of man versus woman, even more harshly than cis people. Moreover, when considering gender-based violence and sexual assault, “the dynamics of the violence against trans women is not unlike that involving non-trans women, except that [trans women] are often more vulnerable” (7). Trans women are at a higher risk of assault, murder, and suicide because of the intersecting roles of misogyny and transphobia, and are more vulnerable to emotional or verbal abuse from their partners because of higher rates of negative body image and low self-esteem. Finally, just as sexual assault and gender-based violence are at the forefront of predominantly-cisgender Feminist movements, gender-based violence is one of the biggest issues for trans Feminists, demonstrating the need for response programs and Feminist movements to be trans-inclusive, even trans-centered.

 

When recognizing the fragility of the arguments against being trans-inclusive as well as the shared issues between trans and cis people, the answer to the trans-inclusion debate seems clear. As Koyama argues in her manifesto, “no temporary fragmentation or polarization is too severe to nullify the ultimate virtues of inclusive coalition politics,” demonstrating that diversity is a strength of feminism rather than a weakness or fragmentation (1). It is, therefore, essential both for the survival and dignity of trans people, as well as for the success and growth of the Feminist movement, that trans people are welcomed into Feminist spaces.

 

By Sierra Campbell (COL ’18), Majoring in Women’s and Gender Studies and Psychology

U.S. Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference

Gender dichotomies in the U.S. Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference

 

I attended the Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference the second week of April. It took place in the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and the topic of the year was the perfect combination between the two matters that I am the most passionate about: women and security. From the moment I read the title the very first time I felt that something didn’t fit well; it was the word “women”. Why talk about women and security as if women constituted this very particular and closed group, leaving out other parts of the ‘gender spectrum’? However, I was glad to know that the configuration of the conference included specialized roundtables where we would have the chance to raise our voices and engage in meaningful discussion with others.

 

From the very first speech, it was very clear to me that debate in the conference was going to focus on the unique characteristics women as a group could bring to conflict prevention and conflict resolution. One of the speeches that stood out the most was the one of Rick Goings, the Chairman & CEO of Tupperware Brands Corporation. I was very surprised when he called himself a feminist and highlighted the number of ways in which his company has empowered women all over the world; even his propaganda was focused on them. I wonder to what extent his company’s success is related to the fact that it is focused on women as the base of the household, as the ones that cook and use Tupperware products, continuing the stereotypical role of women in society. Other speakers talked about the role that women have in the economy and the way in which women have contributed to solve conflicts around the world. Everyone in the conference was in favor of women being more included in the world of international security, but there was a factor that no one talked about: diversity.

 

Talking about gender as if it was a male-female dichotomy can be very harmful by in perpetuating this separation. It is important to understand that gender is never black and white, and, that if we want more people to take part in our national and international security policies, we should start taking into account a variety of identities without essentializing them. Women themselves are a very diverse group, and while gender is a very important part of people’s identity, it does not determine who they are, nor does it determine their mental or physical capacities in a variety of fields, including security.  I believe that most people would agree that empowering women does not mean motivating them to embody traditionally male characteristics of power and domination, but we should challenge the fact that these characteristics are attributed to men. A woman can be powerful without losing her feminine identity. Different things empower different women.

 

By Cristina Quijano C. (’17), Exchange Student from Universidad San Francisco de Quito. Major: International Relations and Politics, Minor: Philosophy

Event Recap: Women Veterans in Transition: Questions of Identity

A Change from “One of the Bros” to Students, Mothers, Entrepreneurs, and Professionals 

On Tuesday March 14, the Women’s Center hosted a panel “Women’s Veterans in Transition and Questions of Identity” in partnership with the Veteran’s Office. The room inside was, surprisingly fancy with chic dark wood walls and nice paintings, so try attending events there!

 

I know this is old fashioned, but seeing women in military is very uncommon in my life. (I am totally not against it.) My previous image of women veterans is of the hardship that women could experience in a masculine, male-dominated, and dangerous workplace. I also have a big question mark for the statement ‘women in combat’. To me it’s a mystery, something that I cannot imagine. Like one of the panelists, Miriam, described it. I could not imagine women in fighting situations.

 

The dialogue centered on a variety of questions highlighting different aspects of the panelist’s lives both inside and outside of the military. Questions included but were not limited to: How was the relationship? What was the struggle in transition? What did you notice about life in service? Why do you think the divorce rate is so high among women veterans? This intense dialogue was followed by a Q&A and a reception.

 

As I imagined, the Veterans on the panel have experienced some difficulties in shaping their identities to fit that of the military. They talked about women who have to choose either to be apart from the unit or to be “one of the bros,” to get along with the other male members. In the culture of the military, saving the man next to you, being apart is not an option. So women have to try not to appear too feminine by engaging in a more masculine conversation style. They have to avoid saying things like, “oh that is super inappropriate, I don’t feel comfortable hearing that”. They did not want to be “that girl”.

 

Therefore, coming to Georgetown, becoming students was a big social change. There were things that they had to relearn, especially in an undergraduate, campus environment. They did not want to exclude themselves from other young freshmen is challenging because they are so much older, they could be married, living off-campus, experiencing different issues… They are just very different and, at times, difficult to relate to.

 

In this process, women veterans look back and sometimes realize that the situations in the military that they confronted were not supposed to be like they were. Even in academics, especially in Georgetown where a lot of classes are about U.S. politics, security policy, foreign relation, and topics related to mobilizing the military, there is a huge gap between what the young students think about and what veterans think about with real-life, first hand experiences.

 

Throughout these changes women veterans do not identify as veterans to the extent that male veterans do. One of them said that the other parts of her identity, such as that of a mother, take up so much more space than the veteran side of her daily life. The identity of “women” veterans fades away. Interestingly enough, the panelist brought up the idea that people can recognize male veterans but not female veterans. One of the panelists mentioned that when she sees injured women she cannot immediately associate that woman as a veteran who was injured even though she has first hand experience and has seen many injured women veterans. The thought, ‘maybe she had car accident’ crosses her mind, whereas she can associate injured men with a veteran status.

 

The last thing that I vividly remember is the final comment from one of the panelists. She emphasized that we should not see and treat women veterans as those who have the identity of sexual assault. Several of the panelists mentioned that people ask them about sexual assault once they are in ‘close’ relationships. The predominantly male environment and the number of reports about the issue make us associate women in military with victims of sexual assault, whether she has actually experienced it or not. Sexual assault is something that can happen in the military but should not solely be associated to women in service.

 

Women veterans have experienced vast identity transformations in adapting to life outside of the military. Sometimes they are students, mothers, researchers, entrepreneurs, and professionals, and sometimes their “veteran” identity fades away.

 

Women with military experience are, strong, intellectual, brave, and they can be much more: that is their identity.

 

 

Rihoko Nikaya Exchange’17

Event Recap: Chiefs of Staff for the First Ladies

Picture a job with no description, a politician who was never explicitly elected, a position that offers a world of opportunity and an international platform that can be used according to personal preference.

 

The position you are picturing matches the ambiguous, ever-evolving occupation of the First Lady of the United States.

 

Yesterday a panel hosted by the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service, co-sponsored by the Georgetown University Women Center, Georgetown University Women in Leadership, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, Georgetown Women Alliance and Georgetown University Women in Leadership featured three chiefs of staff of former (and current) First Ladies of the U.S.

 

Claire Shipman of ABC News moderated a panel consisting of Anita McBride, former Chief of Staff to First Lady Laura Bush and Executive in Residence, School of Public Affairs, American University; Tina Tchen, Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama; and Melanne Verveer, former Chief of Staff to First Lady Hillary Clinton and Executive Director, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security for a conversation on the Office of the First Lady. Each woman attested to variations in personal relationships with their “boss,” yet a few common threads ran throughout the conversation and revealed firsthand insight into this job with no description: the politician who was never elected.

 

In an hour of conversation and discussion, the three panelists offered the audience the chance to be a fly on the wall in the mysterious East Wing.

 

In a position so fluid and flexible, the obvious springboard for discussion as Shipmann asked was simple: What were your expectations for serving the First Lady and how did those expectations hold or evolve over time?

 

Ms. McBride answered first, stressing the principle that the East Wing ultimately had to mesh with the West Wing. In terms of policy, she remarked, the idea that they were not “running a shadow government” was pervasive, and sometimes difficult, to balance. Tchen piggybacked on that idea, stressing that despite the prestige of the position, actual resources and budget are quite limited. The defining aspect of the East Wing mindset is to take the office as it is, with all its limitations, and use the “shiny bright light it offers” the best they can. That shiny bright light, Tchen points out, comes with enormous expectations and a high level of scrutiny even though an understanding of the inner workings of the office itself is much less known.

 

Despite somewhat limited resources and the high level of criticism the first lady often receives, each panelist stressed the beauty of flexibility in the East Wing. The First Lady ultimately sets her own agenda and in doing so is able to pursue issues and policy measures that are authentic to her interests, passions, and intellect; Michelle Obama has worked tirelessly to support education of women and girls and combatting obesity. Barbara Bush travelled to Afghanistan. Hillary Clinton was integral in her husband’s healthcare reform policies. Each First Lady pursues such important issues though each one pursues different ones.

 

With the role of First Lady, the role of her Chief of Staff is one that has to embrace the unpredictable nature of the position and be able to, as McBride so aptly put, “pivot.” The First Lady has a huge opportunity to advocate for critical issues, issues that extend far beyond. As Verveer so eloquently described it – “China patterns and color schemes for events.”

 

With the 2016 election looming, one student posed the question to the panelists about the potential for a “First Man” in the next administration, and how would the role change as a result? Verveer chimed in once again maintain that the East Wing, regardless of the gender of the person who occupies it, offers a platform for the First Spouse to decide their own issues to advocate for and figure out where she (or he) can best be deployed.

 

The event was a wonderful testament not only to the leadership and relevance of First Ladies, but to the women behind the scenes, who edit speeches, book flights, set agendas, and work so closely with those women to define the role of the East Wing for themselves. The panel allowed unique access into that office and in doing so revealed that there is nothing “soft” about it—the office, the woman who occupies it, the issues she campaigns for, and the support team she has behind her.

 

Written by Grace Wydeven (COL ’18), English Major